The details about their painters, fashions, tastes and pleasures



Imagine a court created from scratch, a polite society of young lords and beautiful girls succeeding the house full of severity and prudery of Queen Anne of Brittany, something like a joyous flight of love and adolescence left behind. flange on the collar, even encouraged by the new master is to not exaggerate, the Abbey of Thelema, the court of King Francis I stof Valois-Angouleme. And among these crazy heads, the newcomers of the arts and letters, poets tellers of charming realms, painters coming from Italy, designers descended from Flanders, who will not be idle in the noise of the festivals; those busy singing the goddesses of the day on the gentle rhythm of the Latin or French odes, the latter charged with painting them in their decorative allegories, others designated to preserve their features in rapid sketches.

And soon envy will be born in “one everyone” to keep by oneself the charming faces of which everyone speaks; the exiled provincials, the happy even living in the full light of the court, will have the honor of forming notebooks in which the favorite painter will lay his sketches. Pastels light, perishable, works barely caressed, hastily surprised in a ceremony, sometimes copied on older ones, embellishing or deforming the model, all these pencils , as they said, spread through the world. It was an irresistible craze. The most delicate joined these figures a little dreary, a little too posed, some currencies in the fashion of the day retelling the vices or the virtues of the character. A legend since peddled attributes to King Francis himself the first idea of ​​these jokes. Helen of Hangest-Genlis, wife of the grand master of Boisy, her tutor, had begun to draw, too, the good lady, like a simple man of mestier. She had thus assembled in an album the famous people of the time, from the grand-seneschal, the beautiful Diane de Poitiers, then in all the splendor of her twenty years, to Marguerite de Valois, sister of the king, and several others famous beauties. Agnès Sorel herself, taken from some ancient work, appeared among the others as a reason for comparison, with her cap fitting her head and her big busty girl’s nose. Moved by the sight of the royal mistress, having long raved about the figure of the past, Francis st -which played poet as MI Boisy the painter, -aurait writes down the famous quatrain:

Nice Agnes more than you deserve
The cause being France to recover …
This inimitable album, this wonderful notebook still exists; we find there the beautiful Agnes, the quatrain, the grandesenechale, everybody; he is at the Méjanes library in Aix en Provence. And speaking of him, I begin to regret my skepticism; I regret not to accept as authentic the charming story I have just told, while noting for what it is worth the most curious collection, the oldest, the best preserved. But if we had shown a peremptory way that the king saw at M mede Boisy, that he turned the pages and wrote his reflections on the ladies or lords of his time, it would mark for us the undeniable origin of the pencils. We would not go so far as to give the honor to the lady of whom we spoke; these games were neither of his time, nor of his sex, but why not refer them to Pierre Foulon, native of Antwerp, whose accounts we have kept the mention, and who worked in 1538, in the son of M me Boisy ? The hypothesis has nothing but probable in itself, it would be corroborated by the fact that Foulon made the stem of artists, entered the family of Clouet and left a son as pencil-maker and no less mediocre than himself, of whom we will have an opportunity to say a word just now.

Why should we proceed only perhaps in these matters? It seems that immense disdain has forever buried the names of these men; they considered themselves little more than the masons or the carpenters. Pastel was one of the branches of their industry; they executed the painting on panels, subjects or portraits, the molding on nature after death, the modeling; nothing discouraged them; they were seen illuminating printed books, painting statues, and coloring cathedral pillars. From exquisite finesse to vulgar brushing, from the miniator’s table to the plasterer’s scaffolding, they went everywhere without murmuring. Jean Fouquet, the wonderful and sublime artist, the glory of the French school of the fifteenth century century, colored the coat of arms necessary for the festivals of the city of Tours, and in the interval composed a stunning masterpiece for the Hours of Stephen Chevalier, or the story of the Jews of Josephus. A hundred years later, nothing was changed, and at the time we are here, the painters remained the modest and quiet tradesmen who were the old ones. When they try to describe the fashionable beauties in their pastels, they do a commissioned task, an official work, and they leave the pallet for the pencils, as they will abandon them for something else.

These humble and submissive men come from Flanders; the Italians, infatuated with their hieratic formulas, brought at great expense to compose singular stories on the walls of the castles, would hardly have been condemned to portraiture. Northern artists, on the other hand, less idealistic, are willing to seek nature. Descendants of Van Eyck or Memling, they impress on the human figure the haughty severity, and the abstract look of prolonged poses. Meticulous to excess, they delve into detail, specify the jewels, feast the lace with ingenious care and infinite delicacy. This is the surest way of pleasing the ladies, they know it, and the least skilful play this process in the absence of anything else. Gradually their special way will be refined by contact with French elegance; they will be less hard, less precise; the Flemish complexions first imposed by them on their models will give way to the less excessive freshness of our country. After twenty years of residence they will have forgotten the lessons of their masters of the North and will have become themselves; Jean Clouet in Paris and Tours, Corneille of the Hague in Lyon, to name only them, will create a genre, I dare not say a school, where their genius will find splendid inspirations. But they know only the portrait, the imagination lacks them for complicated inventions. As much as they will analyze a physiognomy in its innermost recesses, the better they will be able to say the look, the smile, the less they will try to paraphrase on the hieratic conventions of the Italians. Who benefited from these special means? They were the beautiful and noble women of the royal courts, the most honest by the word, that is to say, those whose chronicle had the most to say, queens or mistresses, women or damsels. They came to us sometimes disillusioning, preserved by those people who did not count for them, and who gave them the second human life, that of posterity. imagination is lacking for complicated inventions. As much as they will analyze a physiognomy in its innermost recesses, the better they will be able to say the look, the smile, the less they will try to paraphrase on the hieratic conventions of the Italians. Who benefited from these special means? They were the beautiful and noble women of the royal courts, the most honest by the word, that is to say, those whose chronicle had the most to say, queens or mistresses, women or damsels. They came to us sometimes disillusioning, preserved by those people who did not count for them, and who gave them the second human life, that of posterity. imagination is lacking for complicated inventions. As much as they will analyze a physiognomy in its innermost recesses, the better they will be able to say the look, the smile, the less they will try to paraphrase on the hieratic conventions of the Italians. Who benefited from these special means? They were the beautiful and noble women of the royal courts, the most honest by the word, that is to say, those whose chronicle had the most to say, queens or mistresses, women or damsels. They came to us sometimes disillusioning, preserved by those people who did not count for them, and who gave them the second human life, that of posterity. the less they seek to paraphrase the hieratic conventions of the Italians. Who benefited from these special means? They were the beautiful and noble women of the royal courts, the most honest by the word, that is to say, those whose chronicle had the most to say, queens or mistresses, women or damsels. They came to us sometimes disillusioning, preserved by those people who did not count for them, and who gave them the second human life, that of posterity. the less they seek to paraphrase the hieratic conventions of the Italians. Who benefited from these special means? They were the beautiful and noble women of the royal courts, the most honest by the word, that is to say, those whose chronicle had the most to say, queens or mistresses, women or damsels. They came to us sometimes disillusioning, preserved by those people who did not count for them, and who gave them the second human life, that of posterity.

“It is enough that it is a creature to have done more,” said Catherine de Medici. It was this press that brought about the use of pastels, and gradually made the painting fall. Did court women ever find time to ask a painter? Scarcely raised, they salute the queen, attend to their duties, attend the dress; they dine, go out for a walk, supper, change their dress ten times, run incessantly, babble relentlessly. The time to remain motionless never meets. If the artist is charged by a lover to draw his lady in passing, he is posted in a corridor, stopped on a staircase, hidden behind a tapestry; he surprises more than he takes. When he is known he is given a few moments, he must seize the opportunity without failing in anything; gouailleurs, commented on and augmented by malignant mouths, would be the signal of his loss. As long as the quality of these sketches denotes “painting from life”, that is to say on nature, they give us all confidence. If the resemblance had failed them, the written remarks would have fallen as hail: Better circumvented than paince; More beautiful to see if she were here; Beautiful face and meson crosstalk , and other points, definitive signal of the decay of the unfortunate painter.

But the excitement did not stop at these modest and easy works, fashion widens the circle. The notebooks of pencils, initially intended for curiosity, served to compose durable works; they became more simply collections where enamellers, miniaturists or engravers could easily find the elements of an official order. When Queen Catherine de Medici ordered her goldsmith to prepare a series of medallions for the Duchess of Savoy, her sister-in-law, she took no care in providing the artist with the requested portraits. . This one will consult his old albums, he will discover there that badly the resemblances of king François, of Henry II, of the queen Claude. And it is these practical tasks, these miserable copies of copies, these bizarre assemblages of people, of time, and of various costumes, which we find in large numbers today at the National Library, in the Louvre, among private individuals. Art does not have to do with these figures, but history or the chronicle sometimes find their account in the middle of this jumble.

On the other hand, the painters who had arrived, the masters of the genre, François Clouet to speak only of him, also composed pencil albums, nature studies for painted sketches, and final panels; but they did not spread them. They were their archives, and as such they kept them at home so that they could resume them in due course. Perhaps the Library now retains one of these inimitable albums, the one to which we borrow most of our drawings, and which we sought to identify in the past through comparisons and comparisons. . One thing seems acquired, it was because this book passed into the hands of Benjamin Foulon, François Clouet’s nephew, who annotated it and put on the pages that remained white sketches in his own way that were singularly different from the others. Among the beautiful ladies chosen among the duchesses and queens, François Clouet has kept us the playful physiognomy of a modest rival, Elizabeth Duval that mentions everywhere scattered signal us as a famous painter. And yet one must give up one’s name on any work, no more than one can not show an indisputable sketch of his contemporaries, Quesnel, Caron, and Clouet himself. Only one of them signed, signed once, it is Benjamin Foulon; but his mediocre talent, the painful and childish touch of his method, assign him a very small place in the French School.

This tremendous outbreak of portraiture brought satiety towards the end of the century. Even those who had sought the most effigies of their contemporaries abandoned them. The works became commonplace. Pierre de Lestoile, so curious about this world “milled and gauderonné” of the court of the Valois, abandons to Gabriel de Cerniolo, Italian painter, a lot of portraits for forty pounds. And he has no regrets about it: “Even though I know,” said he, “that these old portresses have sewed me much more, if I wish to be deffaict of all the rest that I have taken such a thing. , both for the business that I have money, for the uselessness of such a commodity that goes every day at a discount. ”

If one strives to put some order in these disparate elements, the most naive still know how to interest us. A true artist would disdain them, the historian questions them with joy. Often even the most innocent pencils are the ones who tell us the best of old times, who keep us the stew of things. See ladies Francis st in the collections of the National Library! They seem forged on the same mold. Wearing headbands, and the templated chaperon clasping their heads like a flat diadem, uniformly placed, similarly smiling, low-keyed, they are all alike; was not the letter at the bottom, we would take them for each other. But to frequent them, each retains its own character and life; the pastel cleared by the friction of the centuries reveals the personalities; such smiles, that other sulk. This one carries right her haughty head, it shows good girl and happy girlfriend. No doubt we are surprised by certain reputations of beauty, even the beautiful Diane de Poitiers is not without giving us some regrets; but to go down to the bottom of things we see that the old artist does not deceive us; he speaks frankly with the simplicity of a candid soul, and we come to understand how beautiful is a variable thing. Under Charles VII the big nose of Agnes Sorel was the supreme distinction; under Louis XII, the bulging forehead of Queen Anne marked superiority; under Francis I stthe opulent flesh triumphs. And from year to year the portrait notes the fluctuations of fashion and official preferences. Some day Eleanor of Austria will bring from Spain the Castilian nets that the French will adopt; later, Catherine de Medici will impose her widow’s crush, Marguerite de Valois-Queen Margot-will invent a thousand coquetries immediately followed and spread. In the lanky notches of the corsages will follow modest imprisonments. Collars will enclose the collar, lift the chin. In the time of Margot the large and opulent breasts are no longer grace, they are clamemured in frames of iron or wood, they are crushed. It is torture, the straitjacket, but the body is deliciously “spanish”, rounded in pointed cornet. Sometimes opening a corpse Vesalius met the ribs riding on each other, following this monstrous torture, but what does it matter! Not a coquette would have consented to set aside herbust of iron; it was necessary for a wasp body to suddenly emerge from very wide skirts, which the vertugades or baskets seemed to be of large casks. As for the adjustment of the hair, it is even more extraordinary. Wigs sheep, dolls, shades of golden blond, raised in arches, frizzled, laden with precious stones, escofions and chaperones, everything is worn and supported. The face is painted white, turned pink, locked at night in masks of black velvet; in the ears, the macabre pearls or pendants; at the neck, the gold chains, the jewels of goldsmith and silversmith; and when reasonable strawberries have given way to the incredible fantasies of the reign of Henry III-when we will have to make special spoons to eat the soup over these furious “gauderons” – nothing will remain of the beautiful order of the French modes of the preceding reign. This, however, will be the time chosen by Brantome as the criterion of taste: “Venus had once been so beautiful,” he said, “as to have been delicately accoutred.” Also better was Queen Margot in her brocade. but not a thousand other ladies or princesses in the nakedness of the goddesses. Moreover, she surpassed the handsome Romans, the Greeks, the mother of Cupid herself, and that to know how to dress up with a silk hat with a crest, a round bodice, a wide collar, a red wig and huge vertugades!

The artists have kept them like this and shown as they are in their garments without changing anything. In the time of King Francis, it is Jean Clouet the father, said Janet, it is Pierre Foulon, it is the old Robinet who describe us their rounded shoulders, their good French figures a little common, their thick mouths and their noses upturned. Then there will be Pierre Pilaty, Jean Scipion, Queen Catherine’s painter, Nicolas Denizot, pencil-maker and miniaturist sung by Ronsard, François Clouet, the greatest and most complete artist of the century, Corneille of The Hague, who took the whole court on his way to Lyon , the Duval, Dumonstier Como and Etienne, the Quesnel father and son, Jean de Court, successor of Clouet, Benjamin Foulon and others who will show us the daughters of Catherine de Medici, the royal mistresses, the heroines of the chronicle scandalous, women of the League, and even later came the century, M med’Estrées and his daughter, the beautiful Gabrielle, Duchess of Beaufort. These have been refined; two generations have passed that have left their polished imprint, Brantome explains them to his fantasy: “As for our French, he writes, we have seen the time spent very coarse … but for fifty years in that they have borrowed and learned from other nations so many kindnesses and delicacies, of attractions and virtues, of clothes of beautiful grace and lascivet, or of themselves themselves so well studied to shape, that now it is necessary to say that they surpass all others in any way, and as I have heard say Mesme to estrangiers they are worth much more than others. ”

But in the midst of them all are the most honest, that is to say, alas! Hear the word well, reader, the most daring, the most skilful, the most audacious on the facts, the least scrupulous , the less shy? They are the ladies of the court of France, big or small, big or thin. Provided that the scandal is not too strong and does not degenerate into a scandal, the most far-sighted eyes close, the Catons themselves lower the chief without a murmur. “One sees in a ball a lover declared to be on his knees before his lady and take care to accept him by his good looks and his speeches studied. Others who, for certain respects, can not speak to those whom they love and love, are content with the mute language of the glances Unfortunately, one rarely stops in such a good way, and the miscounts are not rare; the portraits are sometimes embarrassing witnesses for the malignant investigations of the courtiers in good gaiety. Brantome has saved-at least, he claims-the queen of Spain from a shame, for “she had a dust in her flute,” as they say, and the infantes were like any other than King Philip II. And yet he, the brave Gascon, to exclaim that never again was a child his father’s miniature, and to rave about himself wisely, knowing what office he was rendering to the frightened little queen ; for all these foreign princes, coming to provide themselves with agreeable wives in France, were not without fear for their crown; Ferdinand de Medici, married to Christine of Lorraine, summoned to his aid the most skilful physicians of his duchy, before risking the final part; they found only all good and all honest, but how foolish they had been to maintain the contrary.

And, moreover, are the women of the court, the princesses, the duchesses, the baronesses alone in carrying on the work? Brantome laughs marvelously at those obtuse Meridionaux who, in his time, had refused to take a girl from the North. Beyond the Port-de-Pile, in Poitou, nothing was sure for them because of Touraine, Blaisois and Ile-de-France. Poor idiots! as if the commodity in question had been more rare on the banks of the Garonne! as if Lady Venus did not live “even in the shacks of the pastors and bosters of the shepherds even more simple!” He knows something about it, and if he does not name the guilty or the victims from there, it does not is not the envy that he lacks.

Claude Hatton, the country priest who left us curious memories of the mores of his time, attacks the court of the increasing overflow of luxury and good food: “There was no question in France that to dance, play, gaudir and have a good time, both in the court of the king, the princes, that In the towns and villages. “The dukes imitate kings, the simple lords play the princes, the bourgeois sing swordsmen. Such a landlord, who can with great difficulty maintain his train and raise up the crumbling walls of his castillon, is painted in a large silk suit, in a doublet like a gentleman of the House. It is these majestic strangers, those anonymous doomed to oblivion, who are today the desperation of archaeologists. To see them thus, braver than Montmorency, they endeavor to seek for them a civil status; their coat of arms, the name inscribed in the margins of their portraits, cast doubt on the attribution; the less enterprising of modern scholars sometimes decorate them with sound titles and baptize them magnificently. The museum of Versailles shelters a legion of these posthumous parvenus, who owe to their good appearance and their dress to pass for the Trémoille or D’Harcourt, while their modest origin could only save them from the disaster. The ladies, more than the men, benefited from their adjustments. What a temptation to recognize Diane de Poitiers in a beautiful woman with a straight nose! What a desire to find Gabrielle d’Estrees in a damsel with curly hair and fan-shaped collar! The best minds do not resist to help the story in such a case, and we live a little on these fantasies. The museum of Versailles shelters a legion of these posthumous parvenus, who owe to their good appearance and their dress to pass for the Trémoille or D’Harcourt, while their modest origin could only save them from the disaster. The ladies, more than the men, benefited from their adjustments. What a temptation to recognize Diane de Poitiers in a beautiful woman with a straight nose! What a desire to find Gabrielle d’Estrees in a damsel with curly hair and fan-shaped collar! The best minds do not resist to help the story in such a case, and we live a little on these fantasies. The museum of Versailles shelters a legion of these posthumous parvenus, who owe to their good appearance and their dress to pass for the Trémoille or D’Harcourt, while their modest origin could only save them from the disaster. The ladies, more than the men, benefited from their adjustments. What a temptation to recognize Diane de Poitiers in a beautiful woman with a straight nose! What a desire to find Gabrielle d’Estrees in a damsel with curly hair and fan-shaped collar! The best minds do not resist to help the story in such a case, and we live a little on these fantasies. The ladies, more than the men, benefited from their adjustments. What a temptation to recognize Diane de Poitiers in a beautiful woman with a straight nose! What a desire to find Gabrielle d’Estrees in a damsel with curly hair and fan-shaped collar! The best minds do not resist to help the story in such a case, and we live a little on these fantasies. The ladies, more than the men, benefited from their adjustments. What a temptation to recognize Diane de Poitiers in a beautiful woman with a straight nose! What a desire to find Gabrielle d’Estrees in a damsel with curly hair and fan-shaped collar! The best minds do not resist to help the story in such a case, and we live a little on these fantasies.

As far as the artists are concerned, we went further. All paintings of the XVI th century depicting characters from the reigns of Francis I stHenry II, Charles IX, Henry III, and even Henry IV are attributed to Clouet in the inventories. To him alone this prodigious workman, this indefatigable portraicturier, would have put the whole of France on canvas or on panel, in eighty years of sustained labor. The dates do nothing to the thing, and one does not try to understand how an artist, formerly occupied to paint the heroes of Pavia, Tournon, Bonnivet or the Trémoille, in the first quarter of the century, would have preserved enough flexibility for us to show the Béarnais in his mature age. It’s a bit of what would happen if Isabey or Prudhon were given the portraits executed by Bonnat or Cabanel.

The truth is that there were two Clouets, the father and the son, as there were two Foulon, three Quesnel and four Dumonstier. There are already a lot of helpers that we do not know enough and who also had their reputation and their glory. By adding Corneille of the Hague, the Duval, Jean de Court, Caron, and those whom we named with them just now, we can easily explain the countless works so different in appearance, hand, time and merit of our museums. Jean Clouet’s father, worked mostly at the court of Francis I st and died before the king . His son, François, inherited his office and the familiar nickname of Janet that gave them the big ones. When he died, in 1572 Henry III had not yet arrived at the throne; it is therefore a mistake to honor him with panels depicting the King’s mignons, Queen Louise of Lorraine, the Leaguers or contemporaries of Henry IV. Under Henry III, it is Jean de Court who holds the place; after him, it will be Antoine Caron, Dumonstier, Quesnel and Benjamin Foulon. And as great as François Clouet was, as well known as he is, I would not dare to attribute to him a single portraiture without reserve; there are presumptions, serious probabilities in his favor, but no indisputable proof.

I had read that an album of pencils, annotated by Brantome, had passed under the eyes of the collector Mariette, towards the middle of the last century. Brantome writing his impressions on portraits! I had imagined that if this rare piece never reappeared, she bring the most pungent revelations, perhaps even unpublished information. Brantome had an itch to write; he would not have failed to note each character, to give some anecdote about him, to describe him. As the collection had disappeared in England, I had wondered whether the pencils of Castle Howard, with their peculiar, long and hasty writing, were not the cause of Mariette’s mistake, and if he had not wished to talk about them in the note quoted on it. Since then, the notebook has been happily found, and Mariette’s appreciations are on the first page. “This collection has doubtless belonged to Brantome; what makes me prejudge is that many of the inscriptions are written by his hand; I made sure of this by comparing it with an authentic manuscript entirely corrected by the hand of this famous writer. “Unfortunately the storyteller, usually so prolix, would have kept to the dry list of names, which makes me believe in Mariette’s mistake. And then, if I did not see the notebook preserved today in Liverpool I can say that we are meeting mostly unknown people in Brantôme, even the lords XV th century such as Montaigu executed in Montfaucon and Peter Marshall of Rohan. Francis st , Claude of France, Louise of Savoy, Bonnivet killed in Pavia, M me Canaples, are his ancestors. Diane de Poitiers hardly represents her immediate contemporaries. There is, however, a stronger proof against attribution, it is that we see, in the number, women of the reign of Louis XIII; Brantome had been dead for a long time.

Let us leave this question of the portrait book owned and annotated by Pierre de Bourdeille, who has tormented many special writers for thirty years. Mariette, a lover of engravings, was not an impeccable decipherer of writings. Suffice it to look elsewhere for the graceful figures of the women of Brantome. There are such things that the brave lord could not have possessed better or more authentic ones.

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